Tuesday, September 24, 2019

George Moore on Charity-Mongering. (1929)

From the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard
“ .  .  .  A case of intense suffering is brought under the notice of a bourgeois; it awakens in him a certain hysterical pity, or, should I say, remorse, for he feels that a system that permits such things to be cannot be wholly right. He relieves this suffering, and then he thinks he is a virtuous man; he thinks he has done a good action ; but a moment’s reflection shows us that this good action is only selfishness in disguise —that it is nothing more than a personal gratification, a balm to his wound, which, by a sort of reflective action, he has received from outraged humanity. Charity is of no use; it is individual, and nothing individual is of any value; the movement must be general.”

Answers to correspondents. (1929)

Answers to correspondents from the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard

C. McLean (Burnley).
Neither Marx nor Engels dealt in detail with the mental process. Dietzgen deals with the thinking process in his works, but not specifically with the "slowness" of the worker’s mind to grasp the necessity of Social Revolution.

This is a matter dealt with often in the Socialist Standard.


J. Blundell (Burton).
Soddy’s Cartesian Economics may be cartesian, but it is not economics. The professor may know physics, but he is certainly unacquainted with Economic Science. We will try and review his pamphlet shortly.

S.P.G.B. Propaganda Meetings (1929)

Party News and notices from the May 1929 issue of the Socialist Standard








Capitalism and Climate Change: Cause and effect (2019)

From the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

In a recent interview with Channel Four veteran Jon Snow, Bank of England Governor Mark Carney made the audacious claim that capitalism is part of the solution to climate change (LINK.). Carney calmly delivered this claim in an ongoing capitalist context of political malaise, escalating trade tensions, continued financial mismanagement, and imminent sovereign debt crises.

The argument he made was that in order to mitigate risks (not doing anything about climate change rendered a risk to profitability, rather than dealing with the problem being a genuine social priority), capitalist businesses will have to move their focus from where we are today, to where we need to be tomorrow. Perhaps this wooliness doesn’t placate your concerns? Well, Carney went further in arguing that the financial sector had a prominent role to play in this switchover, whereby funds will be withheld from businesses that are unable to move with the times and prioritise climate change.

When probed by Snow, Carney reiterated that capitalist businesses which ignored climate change would go bankrupt ‘100 percent’. While you could argue that an incumbent business which completely disregarded climate change could plant the seeds of their own long-term demise, the ‘100 percent’ route to bankruptcy is by a capitalist ignoring profitability.  Carney would most probably respond that, as climate change poses a ‘risk’ to long-term profitability, capitalist businesses will be forced to prioritise the mitigation of climate change. However, surely the Governor cannot believe that other ‘risks’ of not making a profit are simply going to make way for the prioritisation of the environment?

Leaving aside Brexit and the US-China dispute, let us consider a few contemporary ‘risks’ prioritised by financial institutions. Argentina, for example, faces yet another sovereign debt collapse. Once perceived as an emerging market with relatively wide investment margins, its borrowings from western financial institutions soon proved to be unsustainable. Rather than allowing for an accountability of failure on behalf of banks and investors, the Argentinian government has been provided with multiple large IMF bailouts. Only months since a $7.1 billion IMF loan, Argentina’s dollar-denominated sovereign debts appear on the precipice of default as the strongly IMF backed incumbent government came second in primary elections, resulting in a 25 percent devaluation of the peso and a stock market collapse. 

In Malaysia, Goldman Sachs has promised to ‘vigorously defend’ itself against state prosecutors who claim that senior bankers and domestic politicians alike had embezzled state investment funds, defrauding investors in the process. Does any of this inspire confidence that the financial sector can lead a gilt-edged defence of the environment? Not when such unprofitable investments in loans are bailed out and fraud and embezzlement are vigorously defended. Capital that risks disappearing because a sovereign state borrower is unable to repay the loan cannot be protected by central banks and monetary funds indefinitely, but they will be defended as long as possible at whatever social cost. The idea that investments in loans that are not ‘profitable’ will lead to an immediate risk to bankruptcy or to a redirecting of capital into sustainable and socially acceptable ends is an age-old laissez-faire myth.

As per usual with liberal economics, climate change has been reduced to an economic abstraction in an effort to plead for the capitalist system. Can we afford to wait for climate change to pose the biggest risk to capitalist profits? Are central banks and the IMF going to allow financial institutions to go ‘bankrupt’ if they continue to make loans that turn out to be unprofitable investments, as Carney insists?  Is it likely that in the immediate future climate change will overtake the quarterly demands of investors? How long will it take to simply wait for the profitability of environmentally-damaging goods to slowly deplete?

Can we afford to wait? The answer of course, is no. Environmental groups must no longer prioritise the achievement of empty emissions promises from politicians on behalf of financiers and capitalists. The socialist response is to advocate a system based on common ownership and economic democracy which can prioritise social need, rather than the ability to make profits and if not, to defend unprofitable investments at any social cost. 
James Clark

The Next War (2019)

The Cooking the Books column from the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

‘In the next war, we’ll need the Royal Marines’ was the heading of an article by Roger Boyes in the Times (17 July), subtitled ‘Other nations are scaling up for an amphibious conflict over trade but Britain is ill-prepared.’ He quoted Hannah Arendt about the age of imperialism being when ‘businessmen became politicians and were acclaimed as statesmen, while statesmen were taken seriously only if they talked the language of successful businessmen,’ adding: ‘These times are back.’

Socialists have always contended that the underlying cause of war is the competitive struggle for profits that is built-in to capitalism and which leads to conflicts between capitalist states over sources of raw materials, trade routes, markets, investment outlets, and strategic points and areas to protect these. Normally, this competition is peaceful and differences are settled by diplomatic means in arrangements which reflect the relative strengths of the states involved. Here might is right, and not just economic might but also the military force at a state’s disposal. This is why all states try to equip themselves with the most up-to-date and deadly weapons that they can afford.

War is only resorted to as a last resort, when those in charge of a state judge that its vital interests are at stake. After all, war is costly and risky for a capitalist state. On the other hand, sabre-rattling, as a threat to go to war, is a normal part of diplomacy. Economic sanctions, in which states try to impose a mediaeval-type siege on the population of a whole country, have more recently become an alternative to actual war.

All that happened after the end of the stage of capitalism Arendt commented on was that ‘statesmen’ found it politic to speak of war as being fought for ‘freedom’, ‘democracy’, ‘human rights’ and other such lofty ideals, in order to disguise the real reason from populations less likely to support a war over such a sordid thing as trade. Now, it seems, they don’t feel the need to do this so much.

Boyes, who is the paper’s diplomatic editor but who sounds more like its war correspondent, was mainly concerned in the article about conflicts over trade routes, mentioning in particular three strategic sea lanes:
  • The Strait of Hormuz which controls the entrance to the Persian Gulf ‘through which a fifth of the world’s oil passes.’
  • The Bab el-Mandeb Strait between the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, through which all shipping using the Suez Canal has to pass.
  • The Malaccan Straits ‘through which 80 per cent of China’s imported oil passes from the Indian Ocean into the South China Sea.’

There is already a war going on in the Red Sea area, on one side of which is Yemen where America’s allies, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, are fighting against local militias serving as Iran’s proxies, with, as always in wars, devastating effects on the local population. The main flashpoint at the moment, however, is the straits of Hormuz which Iran is threatening to close in retaliation for the crippling economic sanctions imposed on it and the US is mobilising a war fleet to keep them open if needed.

Boyes views this as normal: ‘Proximity to the sea lanes that define global trade has become something worth fighting for.’ Actually, from a capitalist point of view, it always has been, but in expressing this Boyes is at least being honest, while at the same time confirming the socialist case on why wars happen – and why we say that defending trade routes is not worth a single drop of working class blood.

Brief Reports (2019)

From the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

What a pity
‘Large numbers of children in Britain could grow up struggling with “financial illiteracy” if the UK becomes a cashless society and does not educate children on the concept of paying for things, a maths professor has warned. Many children are failing to grasp the concept of exchanging money for goods because they have never seen their parents or carers handing over coins or notes to a cashier, warned Dr Jennie Golding, at the UCL Institute of Education.’ (i paper, 15 June)
Why would this be a problem if Adam Smith was right about humans having a ‘propensity to truck, barter and exchange one thing for another’? But wait till we have socialism when we will all be ‘financially illiterate’ and adults, let alone children, won’t know what a cash machine was or what paying for something online means. 


They still don’t get it
‘Working-class values like hard work should be rewarded with decent pay and security. The Government should concentrate on rebuilding working-class jobs with decent pay’ (Frances O’Grady, TUC General Secretary, i paper, 10 August).
It must be nearly two hundred years since the slogan ‘a fair day’s wage for a fair day’s work’ was first raised and it’s over 150 years since Marx urged English trade unions to abandon that ‘conservative motto’ for the ‘the revolutionary watchword, Abolition of the wages system.’ Maybe the C in TUC stands for ‘conservative’.


Ten less years
‘For most people, health has little to do with healthcare. It is genetically and socially determined, and in a country like the U.K. with high levels of child poverty and income inequality, the consequence is a 10-year gap in life expectancy between rich and poor, and a 20-year difference in healthy years lived.’ (M.D., Private Eye, 9 August).

Anti-Trumpism (2019)

Pamphlet Review from the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

Resisting Trumpist Reaction (and Left Accommodation). Marxist Humanist Initiative. New York, 80 pages. 2018.

This is an odd pamphlet from a group entitling itself ‘Marxist’ in that it argues that workers should vote for a ‘centrist neo-liberal’ to stop Trump being re-elected in 2020 just as it says that they should have voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016.

Their argument is based on the premise that ‘Trumpism’ is some sort of modern form of fascism and that Trump wants to replace political democracy in the US by an openly authoritarian regime. Political democracy in the US (such as it is) is not under threat, but even if it were the answer would not be to line up behind pro-capitalist politicians.

The pamphlet claims that the position Marx took up of supporting the North in the US Civil War and the separation of Ireland from Britain vindicates their position. Marx supported the one to hasten capitalist development in America and the other to undermine the power of the landed aristocracy in Britain, both issues long since settled by history and of no relevance today.

Their argument is that Marx also had in mind that both would free workers from ‘supremacist’ ideas – racism and anti-Irish prejudice. Maybe (not that it did) but this would not imply voting for the Democratic Party today. That’s not going to change anything. Rather would it suggest some other way of overcoming the prejudices of Trump voters. Such as a straightforward campaign to explain that their problems are caused by capitalism and that it is their interest to unite with other workers to establish the common ownership and democratic control of the means of life. A message that should be equally directed at Democratic Party voters.
Adam Buick

Cunning stunts and climate tokens (2019)

The Pathfinders Column from the September 2019 issue of the Socialist Standard

What was Greta Thunberg thinking by travelling to the UN climate summit in New York on a small ‘carbon-neutral’ yacht across the Atlantic instead of flying like any normal person or even – since she admitted there was no hope of changing Donald Trump’s mind about climate change – staying home?

She surely wasn’t suggesting that a two week yachting cruise instead of a 7-hour flight was somehow the more practical or the safer option, or even realistically available to anyone apart from the rich and leisurely. She wasn’t claiming that air travel, at around 2 percent of global carbon emissions, was the world’s biggest problem. She wasn’t seriously asking the world to revert to the nineteenth-century age of sail, was she?

Of course not, it was a media stunt, a token activity with no other purpose than to grab headlines. Seasoned media watchers won’t be surprised by this. In just a few short months Greta has gone from schoolgirl-on-a-mission to a global ‘brand’ to be steered and navigated through the world’s front pages by an expert PR team. It’s a bit sad really. What the world loved about Greta Thunberg was her plain-speaking naivety, her quasi-autistic inability to dissemble. Now she’s started pulling media-targeted eco-stunts like any selfie-obsessed YouTuber, it’s hard not to see the tacky side. Her on-message team will have meant well, of course. Turning her into a global influencer means the potential to influence global climate policy, or so they hope. But in doing so they’ve played capitalism’s game and commercialised her into a product. No doubt businesses are already bombarding her with eco-sponsorship deals. No doubt her engagement diary is fully booked and hefty appearance fees negotiated, all for the cause. But it’s not quite the same now she can no longer stand apart from the system she is criticising.

Greenwash, or eco-tokenism, is equally evident in the much-vaunted ‘global general strike’ on 20 September, in which adults are asked to join schoolchildren in widening the protest against climate change. In one sense this was always going to happen, since children are not wage-workers and thus their withdrawal of ‘labour’ can have no realistic effect on capitalism’s economy. But for a start it’s not really a ‘global general strike’ – at the time of writing no or virtually no strikes are scheduled anywhere in Eastern Europe, Russia, China, Japan, Indonesia, New Zealand, the Gulf states, North Africa, South and Central America, Canada or (weirdly – considering who started all this) Scandinavia. Nearly all the activity is confined to western Europe (except Spain), India, Sub-Saharan Africa, Australia and the US (https://globalclimatestrike.net/).

Secondly, what about the call to ‘unleash mass resistance’? Resistance to what, exactly? Workers are asking their bosses for permission to go on this so-called strike, and getting it! One architect firm is keen to get behind the climate message by effectively giving its workers the day off: ‘A number of our staff [have] asked whether they could join the protests (the answer: of course!)’, (LINK.). They’re not alone, as firms right across the sector scramble to get in on the act and proclaim their green credentials (see ‘Architects sign on for the Global Climate Strike’ – LINK.). Other industry sectors able to spare a one-off Friday holiday will surely join the stampede.

There are signs that some state authorities are adopting a similar strategy (‘Edinburgh youth climate strikers allowed one school day off a year’, LINK.). One day off in a year to fight climate change? They must be kidding themselves because the kids won’t fall for it.

It’s not a strike if your bosses are giving you permission. All you’re doing is making tokenistic statements and giving your bosses the opportunity to indulge in some useful ‘virtue signalling’. Everybody wins, but nobody accomplishes anything.

The problem with the environmental movement is that it doesn’t know who the enemy is. It thinks we’re all in the same boat and that cooperation is all that’s required. But we’re not, and it isn’t. The enemy isn’t air travel, or industry, or agriculture, or plastics, or your personal heating consumption – these may be factors but they are not the main problem. The real enemy is the stranglehold on decision-making possessed by the global billionaire elites – the One Percent – together with their puppet state administrations. It’s their drive for profits – not some generalised human greed – which is ruining the planet. Universal democratic cooperation is out of the question while they remain in charge. They may pretend to be looking for a solution but they will try to prevent any activity which threatens to dethrone them.

And how do they do that? Brute force, in the last resort, however in capitalist economies where bosses wear suits and not battle fatigues they generally like to be more subtle. The trick is not to confront opposition directly, which might create sympathy for it. Instead you direct and channel it into the mainstream where its narrative is gradually diluted out of existence. If there’s a figurehead you can’t ignore, mock, bribe, discredit or kill, you can try to drown them in celebrity-wash until they become as transparent and irrelevant as any other reality star. That’s another reason not to follow leaders.

So, if it’s all tokenism, what’s the point of this global climate strike? Well, at some level it’s a valid consciousness-raising exercise and if you’re in a position to take a free day off then there’s no harm in it. But it won’t trouble the corporations and the government mandarins, and it won’t move the world a single step closer to what it really needs, the global abolition of the capitalist system with its class ownership and market economy. Instead of tokenism and virtue signalling, workers need to take the world into a new era of common ownership and democratic guardianship of all the world’s resources. But don’t bother asking your boss’s permission for that, because you certainly won’t get it.
Paddy Shannon

“World Revolution”: another confused group (1980)

From the August 1980 issue of the Socialist Standard

Recent years have seen the emergence of groups who recognise that by socialism Marx meant a society in which goods would no longer be produced for sale and in which people would no longer work for wages. They have not, however, acknowledged that the Socialist Party of Great Britain has been pointing this out for over seventy years. In fact they have some harsh things to say about us. The journal World Revolution, for instance, which styles itself “the British group of the International Communist Current” is on record as describing us as “a completely degenerate bourgeois organisation which can only play a counter-revolutionary role within the working class” and as “a parliamentarian leftist sect renowned for their Menshevism” (WR3). Recently, however, they seemed to have had second thoughts and have upgraded us from “a completely degenerate bourgeois” organisation to a “confused proletarian” one:
  The SPGB has survived since 1904 as a proletarian organisation. While its rigid sectarianism from the beginning tended to inhibit any real contribution to the clarification of the tasks of the working class, it nonetheless stood against both world wars, attacking them as capitalist wars in which the working class had no interest, and denouncing anti-fascism for the anti-working class movement it was. The SPGB also recognises Russia and China as state capitalist, and sees parties of the left and extreme left as parties of state capitalism. But against these class positions it also holds to the view that the working class can only come to power through Parliament and that it can defend itself through trade unions. It is even confused about who the working class is – for example, it sees the repressive arms of the state, the police, as members of the working class simply because they are paid wages (WR11).
The so-called “International Communist Current” is an organisation with supporters in North America and a number of European countries, centred on the French journal R√©volution Internationale which has tried to combine the Italian and German “leftwing communist” traditions, both dogmatically anti-parliamentary, attacked by Lenin in 1921 in his pamphlet Leftwing Communism: An Infantile Disorder.

WR holds that capitalism is, and has been since the first world war, in a state of economic collapse due to its inability to find new markets on which to sell its products at a profit. This view is based on an uncritical acceptance of the analysis made by Rosa Luxemburg in her book The Accumulation of Capital first published in 1913. We are told: “As Rosa Luxemburg showed, surplus value cannot be realised within the context of a purely capitalist economy” (WR1).

Rosa Luxemburg did indeed try to demonstrate this, but her argument was based on a simple fallacy. According to her, under “pure” capitalism (an economy where there are only capitalists and wage workers) market demand was determined by consumption (what the workers spend on consumer goods plus what the capitalists spend on consumer goods). If the capitalists were to consume all their surplus value, so her argument ran, there would be no problem, but as soon as they re-invest a part of it – which, the accumulation of capital, is after all the purpose of production under capitalism – market demand is no longer equal to what has been produced. For, the consumption of the capitalists having been reduced, so, according to Luxemburg, has market demand. The result, she concluded, was that there was nobody to buy the products in which the re-invested profits were embodied (new machinery, raw materials and consumer goods for the extra workers taken on).

This argument makes accumulation impossible under “pure” capitalism and Luxemburg did not shrink from this conclusion. In fact it led her to the basic theme of her book: that for capital accumulation to take place there must be non-capitalist areas to buy the part of the surplus product not consumed by the capitalists. It followed for her that capitalism would collapse at the point when there were no more non-capitalist areas left in the world. It is WR’s contention that precisely this collapse began to occur at about the time of the first world war.

Luxemburg had the intellectual honesty to admit that this theory conflicted with the rough notes Marx had made at the end of Volume II of Capital which implied that long-term growth (accumulation) was possible under “pure” capitalism. She therefore tried to show where Marx had gone wrong, but only succeeded in exposing her own utter confusion about economics. She made the silly mistake of assuming that the level of market demand was determined exclusively by consumption (the spending of workers and capitalists on consumer goods) whereas in fact it is determined by consumption plus investment (capitalist spending on new means of production). Thus, when a part of the surplus value is re-invested rather than consumed, market demand is not reduced; it is merely re-arranged: what the capitalists formerly spent on consumer goods they now spend on means of production. Marx had made no mistake.

Of course, to say that capitalism could in theory exist without external non-capitalist markets is not to say that it always has done. External markets did play a key role in the birth and early growth of capitalism. Similarly, to say that there is no permanent underconsumption built-in to the capitalist system is not to say that there is therefore always a smooth crisis-free accumulation of capital. Far from it. Accumulation under capitalism proceeds by fits and starts, but these crises are caused by other reasons than underconsumption: by disproportions between the different branches of production leading to a fall in the rate of profit or, at times, to a temporary retraction of the market demand for consumer goods. Finally, to deny that capitalism is in a state of collapse through inability to find new external markets is not at all to deny that, since about the turn of the century, it has been a reactionary, “decadent” system with no further positive role to play in the history of mankind. By that time, it had already built up the material basis for a world socialist society and so had fulfilled its historic role.

According to WR theory, the period after the first world war was one of imminent “proletarian revolution” sparked off by the collapse of capitalism. In fact, however, capitalism was not collapsing nor were the workers revolutionary in any meaningful sense of the term, that is, imbued with socialist understanding. They were merely discontented with the terrible conditions they had to endure. A minority were indeed prepared to take violent action to try to rectify the situation, but this did not mean they were revolutionary in the sense of wanting and understanding socialism. The great majority of workers, however, as the results of elections held in Britain, France and Germany at the time showed, remained loyal to the political parties which openly upheld capitalism, including by now the Labour and Social Democratic parties.

Lenin too made the mistake of assuming that a socialist revolution in the West was imminent. His justification for the Bolshevik seizure of power in November 1917 was that it was the first step in the world proletarian revolution, a breakthrough by the working class where the link in the imperialist chain was weakest, to be followed fairly rapidly by revolutions in the other countries of Europe and in particular in Germany. In reality the Bolsheviks’ coming to power was nothing of the sort, but was rather the seizure of power by a determined group in the conditions of chaos following the collapse of the Tsarist State under the impact of the war. Certainly, the Bolsheviks claimed to be socialists, but their support amongst the workers had been built up not for socialism but on the slogans “Peace, Bread and Land”. Once in power they never had any choice but to develop capitalism in Russia which they proceeded to do in the form of state capitalism as Lenin was to frankly admit. Thus their coup d’√©tat was essentially only a point in the process of the development of capitalism in Russia, Russia’s equivalent of the French bourgeois revolution of 1798 or rather of the coming to power of Robespierre and the Jacobins in 1793.

WR, however, and the “International Communist Current”, reject this view and proclaim that the Bolshevik seizure of power was a “proletarian revolution” which later “degenerated” into the state capitalism we see in Russia today:
  Its [the Bolshevik Party’s] coming to power in October was one of the highest moments of the proletarian revolution” (WR1). 
  With the recognition of the proletarian character of the October Revolution must come the realisation that the Bolshevik party . . . was a proletarian party of the revolutionary wave” (International Review No.3, p. 1).
The fact that WR regards the Bolshevik seizure of power as a “proletarian revolution” and the Bolshevik vanguard party as (at that time) a “proletarian party” reveals a lot about their own conception of majority, conscious revolution (as WR claims), yet points to the Bolshevik coup (where an unconscious majority was manipulated by a conscious minority as in all previous bourgeois revolutions) as an example of the sort of revolution they have in mind, then their claim, or their understanding of its implications, must be open to serious question. That, despite what they say, they don’t really stand for a majority conscious revolution will be confirmed when we examine their attitude to Parliament and elections.

WR is vehemently opposed to Parliament describing it as a “circus” and us as “parliamentary cretins” for saying that the working class can make some use of it. They favour instead “workers councils” in which their organisation would play a “vanguard” role. Once again this results from the fascination the Bolsheviks have for them.

Tsarist Russia was a political autocracy which did not permit the organisation of normal political parties or trade unions. Thus when it collapsed in March 1917 there were no mass parties or trade unions, or even local government bodies, through which the workers and soldiers could express their views. To fill this gap they formed make-shift representative bodies called “soviets” (which is merely the Russian word for “council”) as they had done before in 1905. The fact that these bodies were make-shift without any formal democratic structure (though there is no reason to believe that they were not more or less representative till the Bolshevik coup) made it easier for them to be manipulated by a determined minority such as the Bolsheviks were.

Lenin cynically proclaimed these councils as a superior form of democracy to Parliament just because their unstructured nature had made it easier for a minority calling itself revolutionary to come to power by manipulating them. WR has inherited this tradition and has not entirely freed itself from the Bolshevik tactic of organising as a “vanguard” to manipulate the “workers councils” they want set up.

On the other hand, socialists reject all forms of minority action to attempt to establish socialism, which can only be established by the working class when the immense majority have come to want and understand it. Without a socialist working class, there can be no socialism. The establishment of socialism can only be the conscious majority, and therefore democratic, act of a socialist-minded working class.

In these circumstances the easiest and surest way for such a socialist majority to gain control of political power in order to establish socialism is to use the existing electoral machinery to send a majority of mandated socialist delegates to the various parliaments of the world. This is why we advocate using Parliament; not to try to reform capitalism (the only way Parliaments have been used up till now, which has inevitably failed to do anything for the working class since capitalism simply cannot be reformed to work for their benefit), but for the single revolutionary purpose of abolishing capitalism and establishing socialism by converting the means of production and distribution into the common property of the whole of society.

No doubt, at the same time, the working class will also have organised itself, at the various places of work, in order to keep production going, but nothing can be done here until the machinery of coercion which is the state has been taken out of the hands of the capitalist class by political action.

In the passage from WR11 quoted at the beginning of this article we are criticised for saying that the working class “can defend itself through trade unions”. We do indeed say this. The existing trade unions are certainly not perfect – they are bureaucratic, they often collaborate with employers and governments, they engage in reformist politics – but at the moment, given the existing low level of consciousness among the working class, they are all workers have to defend themselves. Actually, we do not support the existing trade unions as such; what we say is that we are in favour of workers organising democratically and taking industrial action to defend their wages and conditions, and where possible improve them, against the encroachment of capital, an activity that has in the past sometimes brought them into conflict with the existing trade unions.

And it is not socialists who are “confused about who the working class is”. We say that the working class is composed of all those who are excluded from ownership and control of the means of production and who are consequently forced, in order to live, to sell their mental and physical energies for a wage or salary, irrespective of the job they do. The working class thus includes office workers and civil servants as well as factory workers and miners and, yes, policemen and members of the armed forces. Indeed, it is partly because we know that the state machine is manned largely by members of the working class that we are confident that the socialist working class majority will be able to establish socialism peacefully. For, when socialist ideas begin to spread among the working class it is most unlikely that those in uniform will remain unaffected. When a majority of workers generally are socialists, so will most of their fellow workers in the armed forces be.
Adam Buick